After Covid, recovering my sense of taste helped me feel human again – Laura Waddell

As I regained my strength from a recent bout of Covid, it was food that got me up and about, back on my feet, pottering around the kitchen at odd hours.

After a couple of weeks of dulled taste buds and low energy, a craving for flavour returned.

It started with a bag of black-spotted bananas, left to languish, turned into banana bread with a handful of white chocolate chips and walnuts. It isn’t surprising this most reliable and simple of bakes trended in the early days of lockdown.

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It feels good to take a looming five-a-day failure, bought with the best of intentions but blooming with black warning signs of rot, and transform it into something warm, comforting, and good.

I developed a desire for bright, fresh butternut squash soup, and couldn’t get enough. After a fortnight of napping off the virus, succumbing to sleep at odd hours, my routine was bent out of shape.

But each day I looked forward to the simple pleasure of cradling a bowl of this straightforward soup, sprinkling it with flaky salt, and dipping in soft slices of buttered wholemeal bread.

After a couple weeks without much of an appetite, eating the bland, reluctant diet of a sick person, I was suddenly eager. With each vibrant orange mouthful, I felt like I was spooning health itself into my mouth.

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Laura Waddell “started fantasising” about Vietnamese pho noodle soup (Picture: Hoang Dinh Nam/AFP via Getty Images)

The drive to recapture sweetness and salt brought back the first stirrings of motivation to get out of bed and do something, sending me to the stove in the small hours to souse noodles in soy sauce and drizzles of sesame oil.

My local vegetable box delivery arrived. I’d forgotten to cancel the last one and had watched its contents wilt, guiltily: softening carrots, mushy courgettes. But this one I had intentions for. This one I would make a project.

I planned the week of meals ahead with my hunger returned, googling ingredients, flicking through recipe books and pausing over a page when my stomach leapt with interest.

It was food, ultimately, that lured me back outside. After self-isolation was up, I still felt tired; the Covid lethargy was lingering, I still felt headachy and flat, and by now it was hot and muggy.

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But then I developed a craving for the excellent Glasgow Vietnamese restaurant Non-Viet and couldn’t ignore it. I started fantasising about their slow-cooked, clay pot tofu and aubergine and bowls of their gloriously aromatic pho. I had to have it. I had to go outside for it.

I went for an early dinner, strolling up and sitting outside the small restaurant in the Great Western Road sunshine, listening to the small talk and phone conversations of people walking past who had just finished work for the weekend while enjoying the breezy warmth.

My dish arrived. I took my time over tender, stretchy, chewy vermicelli noodles in a rich savoury stir-fry sauce, getting hits of fresh lemongrass and chilli. I said yes to a large glass of wine. It was the best thing I’d tasted in weeks.

With my hunger returned, I was finally starting to feel more human again.



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